Ukraine, Russian crop reporter and consultant delivers first report of the season – good

Harry Siemens – Mike Lee a crop scout and crop reporter‏ @AgronomyUkraine in a Skype interview from his office in the United Kingdom reporting on his recent crop tour. Mike Lee says the crops in Russia and Ukraine are looking good. 

Mike Lee a crop scout and crop reporter‏ @AgronomyUkraine toured Russia and Ukraine assessing winter wheat and the reports are now available please see Mike’s blog at He and his team will tour again in May to assess spring crops condition.

“Whatever we strive to do, it all comes down to family and food… A view of farming from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan,” said Lee on his Twitter account profile.

Lee in his travels and work in Russian Ukraine said despite ongoing struggles Ukraine continues to support farming.

Ukraine’s Minister of Agriculture, Taras Kutovyi, has presented the year’s results to the Parliamentary Economic Committee with the main achievements including state support, market expansion, land reform and privatization of state enterprises.

“Budget support has increased 15 times – this year is $5.45 billion – and 1 per cent of agricultural production will be directed to support farmers, this program is fixed for 5 years,” said Kutovyi.

The Minister said that Ukraine significantly increased foreign trade of agricultural products to $19.6 billion or 26 per cent of the total foreign trade.

When contacted in Late March, Lee was back at his home in England writing up his reports now available online.

“We have just completed the first Black Sea crop tour of the season traveling across Russia and Ukraine covering about 2,000 kilometers driving down south, basically straight south from Moscow to a small place called Borisoglebsk, a small little town in central Russia. From Borisoglebsk we turned due west and basically drove a straight line through Voronezh, Kursk, across the border, between Kursk and Sumy, onto Kiev, and then at Kiev, we turned south and drove a straight line south to Odessa. We covered about, like I say, about 2,000 kilometers, 2,500 kilometers, to get a good look at the winter wheat crops in Russia and Ukraine,” said Lee.

He said while still pretty early in the season, it’s a little bit further advanced than normal meaning a weather window with the crops just emerging from under the snow makes things look a little bleak.

“Leaving aside the cosmetic brownness and sad-looking crops it’s basically all okay, really. There’s been no significant winter kill. There were some question marks about southern Ukraine and southern Russia because there was a period in January and February where the snow had melted, and there was some very cold weather so there was a  concern,” he said. “I had a question mark over the possible winter kill there, but there’s nothing of any significance anywhere. We do have some thoughts on the condition of the crop going forward, but as it’s come out of the winter right now it looks okay. It could be better. It always could be better, but there are no major issues at this stage.”

“Last year was a record crop out of the Black Sea, record crop out of Russia, and high-yielding crops out of Ukraine, and the crop condition is in a similar situation as it was this time last year,” said Lee. “Going forward I just don’t see the same record crop that we’re going to see in 2017 that we saw in 2016. I think there was a combination of weather events through 2016 that we’re unlikely to repeat in 2017. Also the farmer in me thinks that we’re overdue a difficult season. We’ve had some fairly good years in the Black Sea, and I remember it wasn’t that long ago … four, six, seven years … where we had some fairly hot dry summers and crops getting burned off and fairly severe conditions. We soon forget after a period of several good years on the run that that’s normal.”

The crop reporting consultant said soybeans are being pushed in the Black Sea by both Ministries of Agriculture. They’re very keen to get farmers into growing soybeans. The hectares have increased in recent years, maybe 2.2 million in Ukraine, something like that. It’s still a relatively small crop compared to wheat, corn, sunflower, but it’s also a more technically demanding crop to grow in the Black Sea.

“I’ve grown it. For about four or five years, I think, we grew soybeans on several projects, and we just couldn’t get it to yield. It looked great, produced all the leaf, it merged and everything. When we came in to combine it, it was always very disappointing,” Lee said.

He thinks there an issue with last year’s Russian crop because everyone seems to quick to say there is no quality problem, but that tells him there could be one.

“There’s a big crop there, and it hasn’t shifted at the pace you would have expected it to have done, and there’s a lot of carryover stocks sitting in sheds as we speak,” he said “The official take on it is that the ruble exchange rate has made it uncompetitive and farmers have been hanging onto it. They’re going to need to start shifting it because they’ll need the space. They’ll need the storage space.”

Lee starts to think everyone’s telling him there isn’t a problem. Does that mean that there is a problem? These crops have been in store since August last year and they’re not going to be getting any better. There is a problem there.

Lee said people can contact him or follow him on Twitter at @AgronomyUkraine.

“We’re taking subscriptions for the rest of the season, and the reports were written up now. The next plan is middle to end of May we’re going to do another run around the Black Sea this time to look at the condition of the wheat as it’s moved on, but also to look at the condition of the spring planted crops, in particular, corn, sunflower, and soybeans,” he said. “Then as we move through the season into June, July, we’ll look at the pre-harvest condition of the wheat. Then August, September, we’ll look at the pre-harvest condition of the spring crops, and then finish the season off in November looking at the pre-winter condition of the wheat as it goes into the winter. There are five key stages.”